Today we’re off to an all-day Shape Note Sing in Berryville, VA.
Shape Note singing was popular in the south, and was a standard in the churches, but went out of popularity sometime soon after the Civil War. ?Singing is unaccompanied, with the singers seated in a square, by parts, facing each other. ?The leading is shared, meaning that everyone has an opportunity to lead a song, which they do by pumping their arm to keep time. ?Singers also pump their arms, and they sing loudly. ?Pitch pipes are frowned upon, and instead the music is pitched to the range of the singers.
Shape Note Singing is a full-body experience, what with pumping arms and rafter-rattling volume. To me, it is the perfect antidote to our culture’s attitude toward singing, which is obsessed with singing as professional entertainment. ?I believe that the purpose of singing is for the enjoyment of the singer, as well as the hearer.
I grew up in a denomination that had good singing, and one thing I value in my current congregation is the heart-felt participation in singing. ?When I go to other churches, I often notice the erosion of singing. ?People don’t want to sing out if they don’t feel they are perfect. Which misses the point.